2015 was a good year for content marketers, strategists, and freelance writers. My business, Enlighten Writing, worked with several new clients … and most of them came from unexpected places.
In all of my complimentary consultations, I’m asked a variation of, “is this the type of writing/marketing/editing you do?” When I started my business, at the end of the recession, the answer was almost always “yes.” These days, it’s more of a qualified “yes.” I don’t consider myself a generalist, but I’m not so specialized that I only write for a few industries.
I consider myself a versatile writer.
I’ll give you a couple of examples. Two recent clients are involved with the construction industry, and a third is a non-profit founded by a highly successful software developer. The construction projects were a business proposal for an RFP from the City of Portland and a set of human resources documents, respectively. The non-profit project began as a book that led to ongoing consultative work.
In these instances, I felt I could be an asset while learning about new ideas (I love to learn!) I also had experience with the concepts underlying the projects. I’ve been a homeowner for awhile, so I understand more aspects of construction than I did as a renter. For the non-profit project, the underlying philosophy of the project was one I felt could make a real difference in the world. (I’m in the process of adding these projects to my portfolio.)
Versatility gives me the freedom to write about concepts that I find intriguing without confining me to a particular niche. Some writers make a great living through specialty work. I respect my colleague and Copywriter Conclave of Portland member Jeff Gunderson, because he has created a reputation as a superior communications professional in the water-energy matrix (full disclosure: Jeff also hired me to help him write content for his site). Jeffrey Trull is a key leader of Student Loan Hero, which provides much-needed solutions to students with crushing debt. On the other side, a new writer acquaintance of mine, Terri Wangle, writes customer-focused content for a variety of business owners.
I can also relate as many stories of writers who had lucrative careers in niche industries that failed.
Flame-outs and adjustments
One of the most alarming flame-outs happened to a prolific travel writer who once had a lucrative job writing for travel guides before those publishers either went out of business or stopped publishing original content. I think some of this is a case of “the new normal” – we won’t see rack after rack of magazines anymore – but we’re also recovering slowly from a recession that will reverberate in history books for a long time. So we’re very much in a period of adjustment, and my way of dealing with it is by staying versatile.
Learning new concepts
Versatility gives me the flexibility to learn about subjects I find fascinating. For example, I attended a SecureWorld Expo last June. It gave me the opportunity to learn about information security and cybersecurity – subjects that have interested me since the Heartbleed security scare (remember that?) I learned that even large enterprises are struggling to respond to security breaches, how to educate their leadership (even their Chief Information Officers) on best practices, and which firms offer the best solutions. I feel that my background in technology and software writing would make me a helpful addition to a company’s content marketing plan.
So, what’s next for my 2016? I discovered that I enjoy human resources writing, I now have experience with RFPs, and I’m learning more about information security. My clients, in return, received content marketing that often exceeded their internal goals while they focused on rolling out a completely new suite of services (Bartel Contracting); expanding a healthy book of business (Dominic Scott Agency); and marketing a new translation of the I Ching in China (Divination Foundation).
I believe I am well-situated to help companies and enterprises educate internal executives, communicate effectively with their customers, and increase their own sales.
What about you? Do you prefer your contractors to be specialized or versatile?